Martine Rolls: Hungry for more choice

By Martine Rolls


Plenty of locals have been getting excited lately about newly introduced concepts for bars and restaurants on The Strand.

People have been talking about it. A transformation was hoped for, and everyone was eagerly waiting to see what would happen.

I was among the curious and was hoping for something fresh, new and inspiring. I envisaged something sensational. Something that would draw people back.

A few new restaurants have opened, some are on the market, and others are half way through their refurbishments. A number of them are so well known that they'll probably never change but, so far, I haven't seen a lot that really excites me.

I am not an overly active Twitter user but I thought I'd comment on it with a tweet on Saturday. I mentioned some of the new restaurants on The Strand and asked: could they not come up with something more original?

Fellow tweeters seemed to agree, like @charlise72 who replied: "Just what Tauranga needs, more of the same", and @ianashworth who said: "It'll change again within a year.

Nothing seems to last on The Strand."

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate good food and I'm sure the décor, atmosphere and service of the new establishments will be fantastic. The issue I have is that in my view, the concepts lack originality. I am simply looking at it from a consumers' perspective. Don't we all like to be spoiled for choice?

Tweeting some more, I suggested an Indonesian or Caribbean restaurant for Downtown Tauranga. That would be different, something that's not on offer anywhere else in the Bay - a quick Google search tells me the nearest Indonesian restaurant is in Napier - and the respective cuisines are incredibly tasty, too.

To this, @eRiQcreations tweeted: "What Tauranga needs is a good Greek! - I miss my souvlaki - soutzouki - giros and a glass of Retsina!"

The punch was given by @ianashworth, who said: "Big shame. I love Tauranga but it could be so much more. If it wants to be a viable alternative to Akl, it has so much to do."

Just go for a walk along The Strand and count how many of the restaurants offer pizza, curry, pasta, or burgers and chips. The answer is most of them, and I think that is far too many.

Why do business owners seem to take a safe bet every time? Is it because curries, burgers, tacos, pizzas and tortellini are liked by most people and fairly easy and cost-effective to make? A restaurant can offer it for around $25 a plate and the idea is that punters will come.

I think that the lack of originality of what's on offer is what keeps the punters away. Where is the vision? What's wrong with taking a calculated risk after conducting a little research by asking potential customers what they would like? Isn't that what business is all about?

On the website our local culinary choices are described like this: "You're spoilt for choice Downtown Tauranga. Choose from over 69 restaurants, cafes and bars. Savour the flavours of the world".

On Tourism Bay of Plenty's website it says: "Award winning cafes and restaurant line our beaches, harbours and city centres."

Meanwhile, takes it a step further: "You are in luck, because Tauranga has you spoilt for choice when you need a restaurant, cafe or bar. There are restaurants at every turn, whether in Tauranga or the Mount."

A year or two ago, I would automatically head to The Strand when I felt like eating out. Now I go elsewhere, as The Strand doesn't excite me anymore. My hopes are set on the redevelopment of the Grumpy Mole as we know at this stage is that there are plans for a $1 million three-storey building and that it will house a new restaurants.

All I ask is for it to be a little different. I would love to see the area revitalised. New and exciting hospitality concepts will bring me, and my wallet, back to The Strand.

Martine Rolls is a Tauranga writer and digital strategist -

- Bay of Plenty Times

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